Summer time, and the reading is easy

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Monday musings

By Scott Bury

The season is here. The big parties that traditionally open the season have happened, despite all advice to the contrary. Weekend visits to the cottage or beach have turned into weeks-long vacations and road trips.

And that means that summer reading season has started, as well.

What is summer reading?

Summer reading has come to mean, for most, reading one or more of the blockbuster bestsellers, the ones heavily promoted by one of the five major commercial publishers, a new release by one of the reigning bestselling authors, or an earlier book that’s been turned into a movie.

This summer, that second category is not likely to be as big a factor, as most cinemas are closed. The closest will doubtless be something that’s been adapted for the smaller screen by a streaming service.

(Speaking of streaming services, there seems to be a new one vying for my monthly fee every week. And much of the content looks fascinating. But that’s a subject for a later post.)

For me, summer reading means trying to catch up with a large number of books I’ve bought or been given over the past twelve months.

Books to surprise and delight

The books I look forward most to reading are less well-known, by less well-known authors. Independent writers, new and emerging writers, and authors not promoted by big commercial corporations.

Often times, that means I have to turn to my friends for recommendations, or scour sites like Goodreads and, of course, BestSelling Reads, for new books to read.

So given all that, here are some of the books I look forward to reading this summer:

  • Hiding Scars, by Winnipeg writer Richard Zaric, the story of immigrants to western Canada during the First World War and the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919
  • What Had to Be Done by DelSheree Gladden
  • Beautiful Finale by Raine Thomas, the fourth, and final book of the House of Archer rock romance series

Okay, those last three are well-known, bestselling authors, but I like them, so …

  • The Winnipeg General Strike by Michael Dupuis, a book I bought a year ago on the centennial of the great, nation-shaping event
  • The Quisling Factor by J.L. Oakley, the follow-up to the excellent World War II drama set in Norway, The Jossing Affair, which I hope to see very soon

That should be enough for one summer.

I know what you avid readers are thinking: that’s not so many for three months! In my defence, I have also been working hard on finishing my oft-promised, and oft-delayed second Dark Age novel, The Children of the Seventh Son.

While that’s with alpha- and beta-readers and an editor, I have also been working on a new (or renewed) Hawaiian Storm mystery, Dead Man Lying.

So it’s going to be a literary summer for me.

What about you?

What are your summer reading plans? Tell us in the Comments.

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#StayHome author reading

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It’s still important to stay home and stay six feet away from others as much as possible to control the transmission of the novel coronavirus.

To help break up the feeling of covisolation, BestSelling Reads authors continue the live readings from their books. Last week, Scott Bury read from his first published novel, the historical fantasy The Bones of the Earth.

The Bones of the Earth

The Dark Age, eastern Europe: the earth has decided to rid itself of humanity with earthquakes, volcanoes and new plagues. Civilizations, even the mighty Roman Empire, crumble under the pressure of barbarian waves that are fleeing worse terrors.

Rejected by his own people, pursued by a dragon, young Javor heads for Constantinople, the centre of civilization, looking for answers to the puzzle of his great-grandfather’s dagger and the murder of his family.

On the ancient, crumbling Roman highway across haunted, deserted Dacia, Javor rescues the beautiful Danisa from a human sacrifice. He cannot help falling in love with her. But Danisa has her own plans, and when she is kidnapped again, Javor has to wonder: what is the connection between his dagger, his lover and his enemies?

For the duration of the Covid-19 crisis, you can buy it on sale at Amazon.

Or download it for free from

Scott Bury

can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

He has several mysteries and thrillers, including Torn RootsPalm Trees & Snowflakes and Wildfire.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot. He lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Learn more about Scott on his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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Why I write, and the role of Resistance

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Monday musings by bestselling author

Toby Neal

Photo by Cathryn Lavery on Unsplash

I write because I have to. I write because I’m driven to.

Sub-reasons exist: I write because it helps me know what I know. I process my life experiences and understand them better through writing. I write because I’m a born storyteller who loves both reading and writing. I write because I have stories banging around in my head that want to be let out.

I wish there were a prettier answer, something philosophical or otherwise groovy—there isn’t. Here it is: I write because I’m driven to.

And yet, I spent many years—most of my life, in fact—NOT writing. Living in a half-light, half-life filled with many worthy activities masquerading as purpose, like working at a meaningful career, marriage, keeping house, raising kids. I even did a three-year Master’s Degree to avoid doing the writing I was called to.

How can this be, when I’ve always been driven to write? In a word: resistance.

Steven Pressfield’s cult classic book, The War of Art, is a vital expose of this pernicious influence. This slim tome is written in small, dense, intense nuggets, as if Pressfield had his hands full just discharging the vital one-paragraph bullets that expose the battle against Resistance. “Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard, or smelled. But it can be felt. We experience it as an energy field radiating from any work-in-potential. It’s a negative repelling force. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.”

You must, if you want to write, overcome Resistance. I finally did, by outwitting it. When I was forty and the lies about what I was supposed to be doing instead of writing began to unravel, I started an anonymous blog on LiveJournal and entered little writing contests. I wasn’t actually committing to anything; no one knew me there. I allowed the thoughts, the fear of failure, of mockery of broken dreams to swirl around, and I wrote anyway. I endured the mental battle against writing, without overtly resisting it. For me, Resistance is bested through a sort mental tai chi, interspersed with plain old stubbornness and refusal to give up. I eventually outwitted it enough to complete my first book. And then another, and another, and another.

Photo by Danielle Cerullo on Unsplash

Want to know what Resistance sounds like, even for someone who makes a six-figure annual income from writing and has won numerous awards?

I put my pen to paper and asked for a quote for this article from Resistance, and it obliged swiftly with this creativity-killing missile:

“You’re a shitty writer. Always have been. All those grandiose ideas about your talent when you were a kid? Ridiculous. You’ll never amount to anything. Show some dignity! If you couldn’t write when you were younger, what makes you imagine you can do it when you’re fifty-five?” (I just celebrated this dubious milestone.)

The cruel, vituperative tone of Resistance is unmistakable, and it pisses me off. For thirty years, I let Resistance keep me down, sprinkled with excuses and distractions like marriage, work, and raising kids—but in spite of that foul voice in my head, I’ve persevered in my writing until I know I’m at least decent, no matter what Resistance tells me.

Are you a writer or other creative? Get smart and find a way to outwit Resistance. Your calling is waiting for you—and thirty-plus books later, I’m glad I keep fighting the good fight to do my writing.

Toby Neal

Toby Neal, mystery, thriller, romance and autobiography

Award-winning, USA Today bestselling social worker turned author Toby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. Neal is a mental health therapist, a career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her stories. Neal’s mysteries and thrillers explore the crimes and issues of Hawaii from the bottom of the ocean to the top of volcanoes. Fans call her stories, “Immersive, addicting, and the next best thing to being there.”

Neal also pens romance, romantic thrillers, and writes memoir/nonfiction under TW Neal.

 Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @TobywNeal.

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Launch day: Razor Rocks

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The newest Lei Crime novel launches today! Enjoy this sample and then buy it as an e-book from your preferred e-tailer.

By Toby Neal

Detective Sergeant Leilani Texeira clutched the dashboard of her partner Pono’s jacked up purple truck, affectionately nicknamed Stanley. “Can you slow down?” 

“No.” Pono changed gears. The cop light on the dash strobing, Stanley roared forward even faster as they zoomed down Highway 30 toward Ma`alaea Harbor, whipping around a line of rental cars. 

Lei shut her eyes. “Bruddah. Getting killed on the way to the harbor won’t find your cousin any faster, and besides, if we get in a wreck, Tiare will kill us both.” 

Pono’s formidably competent wife, Tiare, was not to be messed with. Her partner’s big brown hand tightened on the chrome skull that marked Stanley’s shifter, but he eased up on the gas pedal.

Lei sat back in her seat. “I know this is hard—but whatever’s happened has already happened. You gotta stay objective about the case, or Captain Omura will pull you off of it.”

Pono scowled, his pidgin thickening. “It’s my cuz. Not jus’ any kine cuz—dis my uncle’s oldest boy Chaz Kaihale. We been close since small kid time.”

“I know. Chaz is good people.” Lei touched Pono’s tense bicep, her fingers lightly brushing the slash of a scar where a tribal tattoo of interlocking triangles had been torn by a meth dealer’s bullet. She’d been so terrified when the man who was her brother in everything but name had been shot . . . “Tell me again what you know. Let’s get a plan before we meet with the Coast Guard.”

Pono blew out a breath and put both hands back on the wheel. The truck slowed to a reasonable rate at last. “Chaz called me from sea. Remember, he’s a captain and goes out with a couple of guys to crew luxury boats for Dream Vacations Luxury Yachts. Anyway, I wen get one call from him yesterday; he stay yelling. ‘Pono! You gotta help us! Get pirates coming!’ and then damn if the phone didn’t cut off.” Pono flexed his fingers. “Ho, I was laughing. I thought Chaz was pranking me cuz it was April first! But when I tried to call back, the call nevah go through. So I’m thinking, eh, he pranked me, but even with the satellite phone, half the time his calls get cut off.” Pono glanced over at Lei. Even with his favorite Oakleys hiding his eyes, she felt his pain. “Turns out, the call was legit.”

“You couldn’t have known! I mean, it was April Fools’ Day!” Drifts of wayward curls, whipping in the breeze from the partly open window, lashed Lei’s face. She bundled her hair back with a rubber band she spotted encircling the gearshift. 

“I should have tried harder to find out what was going on. Chaz, he one prankster, but I should have called the ship-to-shore radio at least . . . anyway, I did nothing. Then, just now, I get a call from that Coast Guard guy we worked that Molokini case with—Aina Thomas. Remember him? He called my cell, telling me they found the yacht my cuz was captaining washed up on the reef off Lana`i. No one on board, but get bloodstains.” Pono speeded up again.

“No, Pono, no . . .” Lei’s stomach lurched under the sensible black polo shirt she wore with jeans and athletic shoes. “You didn’t tell me anything but ‘go get in the car, we got a case involving my cuz.’ This is big, if it’s pirates. If it’s murder.”

“I know.”

“Are you sure Thomas was calling you as an investigator? Maybe he was calling you as a witness, because you and Chaz are close. He found your name listed somewhere in Chaz’s phone or something.”

Pono’s mouth just tightened, and Lei had her answer—Pono wasn’t thinking right now.

Lei needed to take charge. She dug a Maui Police Department ball cap out of the backpack, loaded with investigation paraphernalia, resting at her feet. She tugged the cap down low and tight on her head, and took out her phone. “I’ll call Captain Omura and brief her with what we know. And let me take the lead when we talk to Thomas. We got dis, partner.”

Razor Rocks

Paradise is plundered by pirates. Someone is attacking and robbing luxury yachts as they sail the Hawaiian Islands—their passengers missing and presumed dead.

Sergeant Lei Texeira, with her typical leap first, look later style, dives into a case with the Coast Guard to find answers that lie as deep as Davy Jones’ locker.

Lei is back, solving crime again! Grab this fast-paced mystery with a twist of romance, and take a trip to Hawaii with the series that’s sold more than a million copies!

Get this thrilling new e-book from:

Toby Neal

Award-winning, USA Today bestselling social worker turned author Toby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. Neal is a mental health therapist, a career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her stories. Neal’s mysteries and thrillers explore the crimes and issues of Hawaii from the bottom of the ocean to the top of volcanoes. Fans call her stories, “Immersive, addicting, and the next best thing to being there.”

Neal also pens romance, romantic thrillers, and writes memoir/nonfiction under TW Neal.

 Visit her on her:

And follow her on Twitter @TobywNeal.

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Thursday teaser preview: The Bonding Blade

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Book 2 in the Desert Goddess series

By M.L. Doyle

Now available for pre-order.

In my previous life, before I’d become a soldier and deployed to Iraq, I’d never have imagined that I would be running around in caves searching for supernatural creatures. All of that changed when I picked up a shiny coin in the desert and became the living vessel of the Mesopotamian goddess Inanna. I know. It sounds crazy.

There is nothing crazy about it, my vessel, said Inanna, her voice heard only by me inside my head. I have traveled throughout millennia, operating in the supernatural world. As the goddess of love and war, plenty and …

Yes, I know, I said, mentally rolling my eyes. You’re a goddess, you’re amazing, yada yada yada.

English may not be my first language, but I am certain yada is not a word.

Whatever!

Sometimes, my head felt crowded with my thoughts along with hers.

So unnecessarily insolent, she grumbled.

I watched as Rashid followed me up and away from the rat stampede. “Watch out for the stalagmites,” I yelled, my voice almost drowned out by the rush of rodents flowing through the cave.

Photo by Andy Mabbett, licensed under Creative Commons

“Stalactites,” Rashid shouted back.

“What?” I said.

“They are stalactites, my queen. Stalagmites are the ones that come up from the ground.” He had quickly, but far more calmly followed me to the higher perch and away from the rush of rodents.

“Okay, stalagtites.”

“Ah, it is, stalactites, my queen,” Rashid said. “With a k sound. Stalactites.”

I gave him a hard stare. “How is it you can speak English better than I can?” My Persian warrior spoke with a precise, clipped accent. Long hair, thick eyelashes, high cheekbones and naturally tanned skin made him movie-star handsome, which completely masked how deadly he could be in a fight.

“I can do nothing better than you can, my goddess.” A sly smile accentuated his snide remark.

Along with the goddess in my head came a few other accessories, like two warriors; Rashid and Quincy who are sworn to serve me. I also have two cougar-sized war cats for protection; Granite and Pearl, both of whom can switch into human form when necessary. Not to mention, becoming Inanna’s vessel made me immortal and gave me supernatural strength and the ability to propel myself from here to there. Oh, and there’s also a demigod. But I’m not speaking to him.

Precisely, my vessel. Such an infuriating man.

Photo by ZulaikhaN; licensed under Creative Commons

“Can we concentrate on what the fuck we’re doing here?” Quincy yelled at us from the other side of the stream. His raised voice and his barely contained fury made his usually pleasant, freckled face almost unrecognizable. He stood where we had left him, directly in the path of the thousands of rats that flowed from deep within the vast cave system directly under downtown Minneapolis. He remained rooted to the spot even as rats scrambled over and around his feet, making it appear as if he stood shin deep in oozing, thick mud.

“They’re obviously running from something,” he said, pointing his sword in the direction from which they came. “How much you wanna bet it’s the trolls?”

The Bonding Blade

Can the embodiment of an ancient goddess live a balanced life in modern times?

Former Army Sergeant Hester Trueblood struggles to find the answer, seven years after fate bonded her to the ancient Sumerian Goddess, Inanna. Whether engaging in battles to the death with demons or entering fight club scraps, Hester’s life is forever subjected to Inanna’s whims and insatiable lust. It hasn’t been easy to juggle the mounting perilous challenges, or to tolerate the demands of her demi-god lover, Gilgamesh.

When her warrior Quincy is stricken with a mysterious illness, Hester thinks a supernatural blade could be the answer to save him. Or it just might destroy the world.

One thing is for sure. Nobody is immune from the painful reality of loss and suffering—not even a goddess.

The Bonding Blade publishes on June 20. Pre-order it now.

M.L. Doyle

has served in the US Army at home and abroad for more than three decades as both a soldier and civilian. She calls on those experiences in her award-winning Master Sergeant Harper mystery series, her Desert Goddess urban fantasy series, erotic romance writing and coauthored memoirs which all feature women who wear combat boots.

Check her out on Facebook.com, or Twitter @mldoyleauthor, and you can read excerpts of all of her work on her website at www.mldoyleauthor.com.

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Memory and dialog

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Monday musing

By Scott Bury

Photo by Max Goncharov on Unsplash

How does memory factor into my writing? Thinking about this brought me to one of my earliest memories: July 31, 1965. 

On that warm, sunny Winnipeg summer day, I was standing on the front steps of my parents’ home. My father was sitting on the top step in front of me, and around me were some other kids from the neighbourhood.

I cannot remember what the conversation was about, but I can remember that at one point, I said, “today is the first day of August.” I remember feeling that I was kind of going out on a limb; I remember not being sure that what I said was true.

“Not quite,” my father said. “Tomorrow is August first.”

And I can remember, strangely enough, feeling pretty good about that—about being close to knowing the date, because I was sure that none of the other four- and five-year olds there had any clue what the date was. I can remember at least one of them being surprised that I was as close as I was. After all, even a grown-up could err on the date by one day, right?

I was four at the time (now you know my age). There were no cell phones to check the date and time on. Phones then were heavy, clunky black things tethered to the wall by stout wires, or screwed to it in the kitchen. Actually, every family I knew had only one phone.

We also all had black-and-white television sets—huge wooden crates with a screen maybe a foot across. I remember how my parents and I used to fiddle with the rabbit-ear antennas on top, or the fine-tuning dial around the channel-changing dial beside the screen to try to clear up the image on the screen.

I remember the white stucco house with the blue wooden trim that we lived in. The front yard seemed as wide as a park, and I remember the oak tree as immense, with a canopy that gave enough shade for family picnics.

I don’t know whether this memory directly informs my writing. But I have always loved blue-and-white houses, and I was immediately taken with Cycladean architecture when I saw pictures of it during high school. 

Unsplash

But there is one lesson I think we can draw from this. Think of your own favourite memories. They’re probably not about big, dramatic events. They’re probably of quieter moments with your families, when you’re not doing anything in particular. No one says anything life-changing.

If there is something about this memory that has any effect in my writing, it’s that. People don’t usually speak in full sentences, and what they say does not seem memorable, at first. And yet, that’s what we do remember. At least, I do. 

This is where I find a lot of fiction writers go wrong. They try to pack so much into dialogue that it sounds false. Listen to some of the everyday conversations around you. People almost never speak in full sentences, they make mistakes all the time, they start sentences, change their mind part-way through, backtrack part way and substitute words. And if you ever tried to re-create the funniest, most enjoyable, laughter-filled conversation you ever had on paper, it probably came out as gibberish. This is why most politicians sound false: they’ve prepared what they say.

I know that stumbling speech with little import makes for bad reading. But still, I remember those quiet times and those gentle conversations, and to me, they’re the most real memories I have.

Scott Bury

can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

Since then, he has published mysteries, thrillers and a three-volume biography, the Eastern Front triology: Army of Worn Soles, Under the Nazi Heel and Walking Out of War, the true story of a Canadian-born man drafted into the Soviet Red Army in World War II.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He holds a BA from Carleton University’s School of Journalism. He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot.

Learn more about Scott from his:

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